This bridge was one of two beautiful and impressive concrete t-beam highway over railroad overpasses located in Paxton. The other bridge was the Pine Street Bridge. The Illinois Central Railroad passes through Paxton as a depressed railroad, and as such a series of overpasses including this bridge provided a crossing over the railroad cut.
The Pine Street Bridge and the Center Street Bridge were near-twins. Along with two pedestrian truss bridges crossing the railroad in Paxton, they formed an interpretive group of historic bridges that documented one community's approach to having a railroad line run through the town. They were both also noteworthy as a relatively large and unaltered example of a concrete t-beam bridge in Illinois. T-beams were a common structure type for very short bridges, but the number of larger bridges surviving, particularly those which have not been altered with the removal of original railings, is smaller. The Center and Pine Street Bridges were designed to be aesthetically pleasing, with attractive railings that included decorative concrete posts at the ends of the bridges. With a slightly cambered deck, the shallow t-beams combined with the tall yet narrow profile of the piers gave the bridges a very sleek and streamlined appearance. The original deck was composed of red brick.
Both the Pine Street Bridge and the Center Street Bridge retained an extremely high degree of historic integrity, with an asphalt overlay covering an original and beautiful red brick deck being the only major alteration. Also, some damaged or lost decorative concrete posts damaged the historic integrity of the bridges slightly. Overall however, these bridges remained as strikingly complete examples of their type. Their aesthetic qualities contributed greatly to Paxton and helped create a historic feel for the community.
The state of Illinois found Pine Street Bridge and the Center Street Bridge ineligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. However, Illinois has failed to provide the public with a comprehensive context for identifying historic bridges in Illinois, and they have also failed to provide the public with a bridge-by-bridge assessment. These are usually critical elements that compose the federally required Historic Bridge Inventory that all states are required to produce. Without this information, it is impossible to determine how Illinois justified this Not Eligible finding. Regardless, HistoricBridges.org disputes the assessment and believes that these bridges might have been potentially eligible. Either way, the bridges clearly had heritage and aesthetic value.
Both the Pine Street Bridge and Center Street Bridge were demolished, indeed the project had already begun when HistoricBridges.org documented the bridges. What is extremely frustrating is that these two bridges were demolished simply for the sake of destroying beautiful historic bridges. A single replacement bridge is to be constructed, however it is located at Holmes Street. Therefore, these bridges were not in the way of any construction activities. It would have been all too easy to simply close Pine Street Bridge and Center Street Bridge to vehicular traffic and leave them open for non-motorized use. The fact that these bridges were demolished for no reason is especially frustrating with the Pine Street Bridge, which for a 1925 bridge that had never been rehabilitated in its entire life was in excellent condition. The National Bridge Inventory ratings for the bridge were Superstructure: Poor (4/10), Substructure: Fair (5/10), Deck: Satisfactory (6/10). Bridges with far worse ratings have been rehabilitated successfully. Ratings like this suggest it could probably have been rehabilitated for vehicular traffic quite easily, and certainly could have offered decades of service as a pedestrian only crossing even with no work done on the bridge. Even the Center Street Bridge, which had a slightly worse structural review for its substructure, probably would have stood for many years for pedestrians. It is unclear who is to blame for having these bridges demolished, but it is quite possible the railroad is to blame.
From a review of the plans for the replacement bridge, it would appear that the replacement bridge has been designed as a so-called "context sensitive" bridge. What that means is that an attempt is made to decorate a traditional ugly slab of concrete type modern bridge with adornments to either try to make it look nicer or more like a historic bridge it is replacing. However usually these attempts to not have a very genuine feel to them, nor does any context sensitive replacement bridge have any historic value whatsoever.
This historic bridge has been demolished. This map is shown for reference purposes only.
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